After the freeze, how churches can help

February 02, 2007

The January freeze that crippled California’s citrus industry will impact the state long after the weather warms. In addition to the estimated $1 billion dollars in documented crop damage, thousands of farm workers have been displaced by the deep freeze that devastated much of the San Joaquin Valley.


Church congregations and other community groups are being urged to step in and assist the recovery effort. Fresno District Superintendent Vickie Armour Healy says she has been receiving calls from those wanting to know what churches can do. “I have had a chance to be in conversation with Karen Stoffers, pastor in Lindsay, and with Marcelo and Corazon Escarzaga, pastors in Porterville,” says Healy, who recalls the impact the 1998 California freeze had on the state’s vulnerable farm labor population. The freeze of 2007 will shape up to be worse then its predecessor. State farm officials say the January freeze was longer in duration and stretched farther from the border with Mexico to Oregon.


Healy says what’s needed is food, money and warm blankets. Healy reports there has already been a shortage of food for families.


The Lindsay-Strathmore Coordinating Council is working with Lindsay Freeze Relief to assist families with rent, utilities and food. As of Jan 28 more than 300 families had been assisted, with at least 500 more still in need.


The Food Bank needs: bags of rice and beans, small, family-size boxes of cereal, cans of vegetables and fruits, peanut butter and cans of meat such as tuna and chicken. They also need money and clean, warm blankets.


Pastor Karen Stoffers will also help you coordinate food and blanket deliveries. Call her at 559-562-3641. (Karen is on Food Bank Board of Directors.)


Checks can be made out to: Lindsay Freeze Relief and mailed to: Lindsay-Strathmore Coordinating Council, 189 N Elmwood, Lindsay, CA  93247.


State agricultural experts say farm workers will continue to be greatly affected by this freeze. While there is still a lot of work to be done harvesting and packaging any salvageable produce or stripping trees of destroyed fruit, that work is expected to slow as we reach mid-spring, and this will leaving many of our state's hardest-working people without jobs. Food banks throughout the state are preparing for the inevitable demand for food.